Management Success Tip #156: A Better Way to Deliver Bad News: Deliver the Decision-Making Process

#156 winnond

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Some managers are Scrooge-like in their glee at delivering bad news to employees, but that isn’t you. You wish there were some impersonal way to let your employees know that they’ve been demoted, or that raise isn’t going to happen, or they aren’t going to be part of the wonder-team, or whatever it is. But just like it’s extreme bad form to break up with someone via text, it’s utterly impossible for anyone other than your reluctant self to deliver said bad news. It’s in your job description.

Other than going British and adopting a stiff upper lip, what can you do?

Be transparent about the process by which the decision was made. People are generally more satisfied with the outcome, even when they don’t particularly like the outcome, when they believe that the outcome has been fairly arrived at. It’s what’s called “procedural fairness.” So explain how the decision was arrived at, who weighed in (if appropriate), what their considerations were, and what different factors came into play.

I think of it as “showing your long division.” Don’t just give your employee the result of the process, take them through the process itself. You don’t have to defend the process, or what went into the decision-making. Be factual, don’t take sides. Your objective is to describe the process, not argue any pros or cons.

Your employee may still not be thrilled at the news, but they will be at least reassured that the decision wasn’t arbitrary, and you will have a better way of delivering bad news than just stiffening your upper lip.

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Management Success Tip #155: Don’t Rush To The Fix: Seek First To Understand!

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You’re a busy manager – too much on your plate all the time, and too little time. The curse of modern day business.

It’s perfectly understandable that in dealing with your employees, you want to go straight to the fix. Which you figure you know. After all, you’re the manager.

But here’s the thing: sometimes you don’t. You don’t know if the reason an employee is clock watching is because he/she is lazy and unengaged, or because there’s a sick child or elderly parent at home that requires care. You don’t know if it’s because the employee is rushing to get to a seminar, a team-sport activity, or a bar! You don’t know.

Instead of rushing to the fix, seek first to understand what’s going on with your employee. It’s what Steven Berglas, Ph.D., business consultant, calls “showing empathy.” He states, for example: “If you tell someone, ‘You know, you got an issue that calls for an attitude adjustment,’ youʼll never connect with them. Even if you are correct, the other person will dislike you for being insensitive. Say, ‘I sense you have been out of sorts for some time,’ and that person will embrace you.”

By not starting out with “the fix” and judging your employee on the basis of very little information, you’ve made it possible for your employee to share what’s really going on with them. Whatever it is, your fix will be far more appropriate and targeted, because now you actually know what the problem is.

Understanding is a far better road to effective management than guessing is. It also makes for a happier, more engaged workforce.